Monday, August 13, 2012

RECIPE - Stewed Beef with Cachaça (Carne na Cachaça)

This Brazilian take on the French classic dish boeuf bourguignon retains traditional French touches like pearl onions but makes a bold leap by substituting Brazilian cachaça for the hearty red wine called for in the original. This switch takes the dish from the vineyards of Burgundy to the sugar-cane plantations of tropical Brazil, and it changes the character of this dish completely but interestingly - adding smoky notes that aren't present in the original dish.

Stewed beef with cachaça is a good example of the way in which Brazilian chefs are opening up their minds to the potentials of cachaça as a recipe ingredient. (Click here to read more about this trend). Reinterpreting classics, creating entirely new dishes, all with the distinctive taste of cachaça - just part of how Brazilian gastronomy has shifted its focus from its former slavish imitation of classic French or Italian cuisine. Now native Brazilian ingredients and techniques are front and center as Brazilian food steps into the world's gastronomic spotlight.

This dish is total comfort food and not difficult to make. It's especially suited to cold or damp evenings, especially when accompanied by mashed potatoes, as suggested in the recipe. Cachaça is increasingly easy to find in North American and European liquor shops, so there should be a problem sourcing all the ingredients. As an added bonus, you'll have plenty of cachaça left over, so you have all you need to make your own caipirinhas!
RECIPE - Stewed Beef with Cachaça (Carne na Cachaça)
Serves 6

2 Tbsp neutral vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 lbs (1 kg) stewing beef (chuck or similar), cut into large cubes
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup cachaça
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 cups pearl onions, peeled
finely chopped parsley to garnish
Heat the oil in a large, heavy pan, then brown the meat on all sides, in batches if necessary to prevent crowding. Remove the browned meat from the pan and reserve. Add a bit more oil if needed, then saute the onion and garlic in the same pan just until they begin to brown. 

Return the meat and any accumulated juices to the pan along with the water, the cachaça and the tomato paste. Mix thoroughly to dissolve the tomato paste, then add salt and pepper to taste. Bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover the pan. Cook at low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is fork tender.

Add the peeled onions and cook for an additional 10 minutes or so, or until the onions can be easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife.

Put the stew into a decorative serving bowl, sprinkle over chopped parsley and serve with mashed or boiled potatoes.


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